Jon Lester free agency: Cubs, Giants, Red Sox remain in pursuit
Parsing through Monday’s bevy of rumors and reports regarding Jon Lester’s next destination.
With the MLB Winter Meetings underway, the baseball world is waiting to see which team Jon Lester decides to sign with. The 30-year-old is arguably the best free-agent starter available this offseason, and the competition for his signature is nearing an end, with the Cubs, Red Sox, Giants and even Dodgers reportedly still in the running.
Buster Olney of ESPN tweeted that Lester is expected to make a decision on his destination either by late Monday or sometime on Tuesday. Speculation has continued since then, with conflicting reports identifying the Cubs and Giants as the current favorites before more news came out indicating the Red Sox are still very much involved in the negotiations.
After all that’s been said and reported about Lester’s impending decision, here is what we know right now about the lefty’s free-agent talks.
The Cubs and Giants are reportedly the favorites
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported Monday afternoon that Lester has narrowed his choice down to the Cubs and Giants. Considering Rosenthal’s industry connections, the report came as big news, especially San Francisco’s apparent position of strength in negotiations.
Up until recently, the Giants were seen as a dark horse for Lester, but the club does have money to spend after losing out on Pablo Sandoval, and their pitching staff could use another reliable arm to pair with Madison Bumgarner at the top of the rotation. Given all their postseason success in recent years, the Giants must be attractive to Lester compared with a Cubs team that is likely another year or two away from serious contention.
Even still, the Cubs certainly have the financial muscle to sign Lester and have already reportedly offered him a six-year deal in the $130 million range. How much the Giants are willing to pay Lester remains unknown, even though San Francisco is growing more optimistic about its chances.
The Red Sox aren’t out yet
Not long after Rosenthal’s report, Rob Bradford of WEEI spoke to Lester’s agent, who said news of the Red Sox being out on the lefty is “absolutely untrue.” Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald followed up with the information that Boston hasn’t been notified of any such news.
Indeed, the Red Sox are scheduled to meet with Lester’s camp Monday night, according to Sean McAdam of CSSNE.com, and are still hopeful they can lure the nine-year veteran back to Boston.
So the Red Sox are either in or out, according to who you talk to, and while Rosenthal could be correct, the Red Sox still apparently think they have a chance. Boston certainly has the need for a top-of-the rotation arm and perhaps that will give it the motivation to meet Lester’s asking price.
Of course, other teams could be involved, such as the Dodgers, who were said to be pursuing Lester over the weekend.
It’s likely the negotiations will come down to whichever club is willing to muster up the cash or offer Lester a seventh guaranteed year. Maybe that’s the Cubs or Giants, or the Red Sox or Dodgers. Or maybe another team will swoop in for Lester’s signature. Hey, you can never count out the Yankees:
I just had a front office person tell me, “Don’t count out the #yankees with Jon Lester.” Scout hearing the same thing.
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 9, 2014